Note this task catalogue may be subject to change prior to the event. Current version issued 13/07/2017
What to expect... tips from the task director
The British Open Paramotor championship is defined as a 'classic' competition. This means that the tasks are designed to test the full range of paramotor piloting skills, through an even balance between the three task types of 'Navigation', 'Precision', and 'Economy'. This discourages pilots from choosing dangerously specialised equipment, and incentivises manufacturers to design safe all-round aircraft that can equally be flown and enjoyed by world champions and weekend club pilots alike. The following paragraphs explain some of the key principles behind these tasks, and offer some advice about how to practice for them at home.
‘Navigation’ type tasks can probably best be described as aerial orienteering; they test the fundamental pilot skills of map reading over cross country courses of up to 100km (if in still air, less in wind), of always knowing exactly what their position is over the ground, relative to the map on their flight deck, and in making good flight plans and good decisions in the air. Each pilot is given a simple GPS logger unit, and an A4 or A3 Ordnance Survey map showing an array of turn points that must be ‘collected’ or a given course to fly accurately. More challenging variations might include a requirement to pre-declare the speed at which you will fly different legs of a route, or identifying features on your route from photos you are given before takeoff. There is no denying that navigating accurately at speed is more of a challenge, but regardless of the size and speed of your wing, no-one enjoys standing on speedbar for an hour or more in one hit. Whilst some navigation tasks do require at least some component of speed to enable meaningful scoring, for 2017, the focus will be on alternative and new variations of navigation task that primarily reward navigational accuracy and decision making.
- Get used to flying with the Ordnance Survey map, and not using your GPS! You can buy the Ordnance Survey Landranger map digitally through Memory Map; when you print, set the scale setting to 1:66,666.
- Get a good map board, ideally with the capability to rotate so you can always fly 'track up'.
- Draw a random curve route around your map with a pen and try to follow it as accurately as you can. When you get home, compare your actual GPS track with the curve you drew.
- Assign 4 or 5 'turn points' to particular features that will be obvious from the air (bridges, road junctions, and churches work well) within a radius of about 10k from your field. On the ground, practice plotting the shortest course you can that encompasses all of them, and then try flying it.
- Learn you air speed at various trim settings; the best way to measure this is to set your GPS to the 'average speed' readout. For each trim setting, fly a straight line into wind and 'reset trip' to start the average readout. Hold this course for a few minutes until the reading has settled and note the value. Then turn 180 degrees to fly directly downwind, align, and 'reset trip' again. You airspeed at that trim setting will be the average between these two readings.
‘Precision’ type tasks are traditionally based on either landing accuracy, or slalom flying. Landing accuracy tasks – spot landing or bowling landing - test an essential pilot skill, simulating the realistic event of an engine-out with a limited area available to land in; these are usually worth up to 250 points and will be bolted on to the end of many of the larger navigation tasks. Slalom tasks however, traditionally require pilots to follow a given course at very low level, making sharp turns around and between inflatable pylons or flexible poles. Clearly this has significant safety implications when flown over land, and for this reason there are now a separate and dedicated series of international slalom-only championships that are flown over water. In the spirit of both inclusivity and safety therefore, there will be NO pylon-racing slalom tasks in the British Open Championship in 2017. ‘Precision’ pilot wing handling skills at low level can be tested just as meaningfully, and more importantly more safely, by tasks that are flown into wind in a straight line, testing ground handling skills (i.e. ‘Chilly Sticks’) or equipment speed range capabilities (i.e. ‘Slow-Fast’).
- Never go flying without leaving a marker in your field so you can practice spot landing on your return! Anything will do - a brightly coloured old T shirt works very well.
- When you return from a flight, overfly the marker into wind at 500"AGL. Drop the engine to idle at this point and try not to touch the throttle again (in competition, you will be required to switch off completely, but keep it idling in training so you can power up and realign if you misjudge the approach). With the engine idling, you are aiming to turn around in a wide 360 degree circle so that your final approach at ground level is directly below where you switched off, and also facing into wind.
- Keep practicing ground handling! You can never get enough. If you're getting confident, start practicing 'touch and go': coming in to land with the engine idling, when you touch down, keep moving forward kiting the wing for a bit, then power up and take off again without the wing ever having deflated.
The third element of competition is economy tasks. These will appeal to the classic paraglider trained pilots – a challenge of your thermalling skills, measured in minutes of flight per unit fuel usage. Unlike international competitions, for many years now in the UK we’ve removed the need for ‘comp bottles’ (an additional 1 litre header tank mounted next to your head so you can see your last bit of fuel draining!) and the uncomfortable risk of running out of fuel and having to land out by simply weighing the pilot and their machine before and after the flight to give the weight of fuel used. Variations on this include distance or navigation elements as well.
- Practice thermalling! Get a good vario (non-GPS) that ideally has an audio feed into your headphones. You need to build your confidence flying in thermic conditions, not just in calm morning or evening air.
- Get a good idea of the fuel burn rates at your most economical trim setting; include a 'full flight' burn rate that includes a takeoff climbout. The simplest way to do this is to weigh your tank (or whole machine if you don't have a removeable tank) before and after the flight. Keep the trim setting constant throughout the flight, take off in still, non-thermic air, and fly at constant altitude for a reasonable period of time, say half an hour at least, keeping your throttle as consistent and light as possible.